Steve Wheeler: Learning with e’s Series

04 Education, Advanced Cyber/IO, Knowledge, Science
Steve WheelerClick for BIo Page
Steve Wheeler
Click for BIo Page


At the end of each year many of us tend to focus on the future, wondering what it will bring. We wish each other a happy New Year, and hope that life will treat us kindly. We try to shape our own futures by making New Year resolutions, many of which fall by the wayside after a week or two. Much of our future is not ours to shape. But still we persist in trying to predict the future.  Many of our predictions about the future are based on speculation or wishful thinking.


When discussing the future, especially the future of technology, there are some writers who almost always seem to be quoted. Near the top of the list is the futurologist Ray Kurzweil, who has much to say about our technological future, and also about the growth in human intelligence. His views are quite optimistic, especially around computers and the nature of knowledge.


In my previous blog post I examined the debate about whether we are becoming more intelligent or less intelligent as a result of our prolonged and habituated uses of technology.


What will be the future of school classrooms? It is unlikely that we will see the demise of the classroom in the next decade. Those who study the future of education often suggest that the demise of traditional classrooms is not only inevitable, but imminent.

Parts 04-09 Below the Line.


A few years ago Peter John and I wrote a book entitled ‘The Digital Classroom’. It was published by Routledge in 2008 and is now also available as a Kindle reader version. It wasn’t the first published under that title, and it probably won’t be the last. The idea of a ‘classroom’ (regardless of how anachronistic that may sound) is appealing when it is ‘digitised’.


Technology is great for many things, but perhaps its most useful application is enabling us to do things better, faster, smarter. Augmented Reality (AR) is one such tool that has a lot of potential to enhance our senses, but to date has had poor uptake and real life application in the world of learning.  AR typically provides the user with additional information than can be obtained naturally. It takes live views of the real world around you and augments them with computer generated sensory information such as graphics, data, video or sound.


I spent the last two years of my school life at AFCENT* International School, in Brunssum, Holland. There was one word to describe AFCENT School – diversity. I remember how culturally rich the experience was, because children from all of the NATO** countries attended, and I often sat alongside American, German, Canadian, French, Norwegian and Swedish classmates.


At the start of each year everyone it seems, goes into the prediction business. The first week of 2013 saw many articles appearing on what we can expect to see this year. A large number of the articles were about new technology trends, and there was much speculation about how certain technologies might transform our mundane little lives. With the massive Consumer Electronics Show CES 2013 opening its doors last week in Las Vegas, technology news was making prime time TV all across the globe too. The stars of CES 2013 were the Vuzix M100 Augmented Reality Smart Glasses (pictured), Samsung’s new ultra thin bendy phone screen and the 4K ultra high Resolution television screen. These are not future technologies. They are technologies for today, 2013. 4K resolution is not enough it seems. Already there are articles predicting beyond 4K into the exotic TV world of the future where transparent televisions (what the…?), and even ‘choose your own size’ projected wall TVs will roam majestically across the prairies. Entertainment will literally go to the wall.


Everything it seems, is being disrupted. By this I mean that new technology is arriving all the time, and much of it is changing forever the way we do things, the way we think about things, and the way we use things. The reason technology has the capacity to be so disruptive, is that it moves more quickly than industry, business, education, health, entertainment, in fact just about every part of the society we live in is constantly struggling to keep pace with it. As Larry Downes wrote recently: ‘Social, political and economic systems change incrementally, but technology changes exponentially.’